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Choosing a Self Publishing Printer

If you are printing a cookbook there are many different platforms you can use. They break down into three main categories: digital print on demand printing, offset printing, and turnkey printing. Each type of printing category has positives and negatives that you need to be aware of.

Key Considerations of Choosing a Printing Platform

Regardless of which type of printer you are going with, there are several factors to keep in mind when choosing a printing platform. Probably the most important is the reputation of the printing platform with other writers. Choosing a platform that is well thought of goes a long way towards having a smooth publishing experience.

There are many financial considerations as well. Different printers will charge different amounts to print and distribute the same book. Some printers also require an upfront publishing fee before they will print it. The cost to purchase additional books directly can be very important if you are planning on wholesaling or selling books directly.

The distribution network of the printer is also very important unless you are planning on doing all the selling yourself. Getting your books on Amazon and other online retailers is a key to reaching a wide range of readers.

Some printers have very strict contractual terms where they own some or all of the rights to your book. We highly recommend avoiding these printers.

You can also mix-and-match printers, playing to each of their strengths. For example, you could publish through CreateSpace for their Amazon distribution but go through a less expensive offset printer to print your wholesale orders. Many people publish both through CreateSpace and IngramSpark to maximize their distribution. As long as you have a universal ISBN number this strategy will work fine.

Types of Printing Platforms

If you are printing a cookbook there are many different platforms you can use. They break down into three main categories: digital print on demand printing, offset printing, and turnkey printing. Each type of printing category has positives and negatives that you need to be aware of.

Digital Print On Demand

Print on demand printing is probably the easiest and most common type of printing for self publishers. Print on demand takes advantage of the digital quality of books and printing to only print your book when a copy is needed. The process is a similar, if more complicated, version of what you do at home when you print a document.

Positives of Print On Demand

The biggest benefit to print on demand printing is that cookbooks are only produced as they are needed. This eliminated the need for storing cookbooks as inventory, as well as minimum order sizes. You take no risk using a print on demand company since you only pay for copies that are sold.

Many print on demand companies will work directly with Amazon or another wholesaler to receive orders from them, print your book, and ship it out without you ever being involved.

Negatives of Print On Demand

There are a few negatives with print on demand. One is a lack of control over some of the design and formatting decisions. Most print on demand companies have guidelines you have to follow because your book is printed with the same setup as many other books. This can be a major issue if you are working on a Marketing book or you want very, very specific colors, page size, paper quality, or other design considerations.

Another negative is a potential lower-quality printing compared to other types of printers. The quality varies from company to company, but most digital, print on demand quality is less than that of the better offset printers.

The final negative of print on demand is that there are usually no discounts for larger printings. With small- and large-batch printing, you can get bulk discounts. Those discounts don't apply for print on demand, so if you are planning on ordering large quantities, it may cost more than other methods. This has been changing lately as a few printers have started offering bulk discounts.

Common Print on Demand Companies

There are several well known companies that do print on demand and we have an in-depth look at the most popular ones in our Comparison of Print On Demand Printers.

Offset Printing

Offset printing is the standard printing method for traditionally published cookbooks and most other professionally printed materials. It uses a processes where the book is set up for printing and then a large run of them are printed out. For a more detailed look at the offset printing process in general I highly recommend the Wikipedia page for it.

Positives of Offset Printing

Offset printing is the industry standard for a reason. It is relatively inexpensive for large numbers of items and the print quality is very high. You also have a whole lot of control over the look and feel of all aspects of the book.

Negatives of Offset Printing

The biggest negative to offset printing is that minimum quantities are needed. Because the press has to be set up specifically for each run, most companies require a minimum printing of 500 to 5,000 books. You or a dropship company will need to store these books and then ship them to people who purchase them. Any books that don't sell are still owned by you, and you've taken a loss on them.

Common Offset Printing Companies

There are many offset printing companies. One of the largest is Ingram.

Turnkey Printing

Turnkey printing is the most basic type of cookbook printing. Once you've written your content, you create an account on the site and fill out forms for chapters, recipes, and other content. They will then assemble the information from the forms into a cookbook which they will then print, and sometimes distribute, for you.

Positives of Turnkey Printing

The only real benefit of a turnkey printer is that it is easy to use and no knowledge of word processing or cookbook creation is needed. If you are uncomfortable formatting documents on a computer or doing general word processing tasks, this might be the method right for you.

Negatives of Turnkey Printing

The biggest negative of turnkey printing is the limited control you have. They will offer some subset of decisions you can choose from for design, typography, and book size but it will have to be in their guidelines.

Turnkey printers also tend to be more expensive than offset or print on demand publishers.

Common Turnkey Printing Companies

Turnkey cookbooks are a big industry and there are several large companies including Cookbook Publishers, Inc. and Morris Press.